Hiring An Expat vs. National: How You Can Be Hired As An Arab National In The Gulf?

Hiring An Expat vs. National: How You Can Be Hired As An Arab National In The Gulf?

The Middle East is a region filled with hiring opportunities for companies that continue to expand into this exciting arena. Like many emerging markets however, a strong expat hiring scheme has seen many nationals lose out on positions they feel qualified for. However, due to a high youth unemployment rate in the GCC, many of its nations have implemented nationalisation policies to encourage the hiring of its country’s own. Despite this, hiring seems to be having a greater impact on entry level jobs as opposed to the positions of the corporate ladder. Is there anything Arab National executives can do about this? Lets take a look at why expats are still in demand, advantages Arab Nationals have over expats and the common failings when seeking a job in the Gulf.

Advantages for Expats

Expats are in demand in emerging markets due to expanding organisations seeking the knowledge of expat managers from more mature economies. Utilising their experience to lead their team and bring their western education and work experience to people and a region that is just developing. Likely to have worked at a big organisation, such international experience can look more attractive on a resume, providing a foot in the door when applicants are being screened. Such experience translates into huge dividends for the organisation, the overwhelming reason why expats are in such high demand. The advantages of them being able to mentor and teach the next crop of potential national managers/leaders is another reason and all culminate into why they get paid handsomely as well. Expatriate family on the beach

Advantages For Arab Nationals

However, history tells us that expats are not the best at adapting to the culture they move to. Even more so in Middle Eastern countries, where many of the traditions, cultural differences and laws make it difficult for a westerner to settle. Arguably the most significant factor why expats fail it is often why you see expat communities within such cities such as Riyadh, Dubai, Abu Dhabi to allow expats greater flexibility to do what they’re used to. Due to the costs involved with relocating and the typically higher salary they demand (due to their experience) expats often earn more than an Arab National as well. Use this to your advantage without undervaluing yourself. Nationalisation, although – as mentioned earlier – may be impacting lower level jobs more, it is affecting the higher paid jobs as well. Hiring expats is a complicated process, with certain tax laws, pension plans, visa information to sift through, it can be a time consuming and costly procedure for the HR department. Such nationalisation policies are there to help you find employment in your own country and the added benefit of the process being much simpler simply aids your case. Let it give you confidence when entering the job market and interview process. However, arguably your biggest trump card as an Arab National is that fact that you are a national. Having lived there, know the people, know the language, know the culture; it is without doubt where your biggest strength lies when up against an expat. Particularly due to the significance of relationships and ‘wasta’ in the Middle East, it’s something you are familiar with that expats struggle to comprehend.


What aspect of the Middle Eastern Culture do you feel westerners struggle to deal with the most?

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Common Failings For Arab Job Seekers

Lets take a look at some of the common failings for Arab Nationals when seeking executive and managerial positions.

Not Seeking Experience

As outlined above, as a national, there are many advantages in your favour; however, relying on your strengths may not be sufficient. Experience is a main point of concern for companies. Seeking such experience by either working abroad or moving into different departments (if you work in a multinational) can be an advantageous way to gain the experience they may need.

Not Being Prepared For Interviews

Sounds silly, but it is extremely competitive out there. Preparing well may not be good enough. You want to have a strong understanding of the company, its core culture, direction it is heading and also potential scenarios you may face in regards to questions or tasks. Particularly for executive interviews, you need to ensure you understand the current trends (or read this). Want to know how you can prepare for an interview better? Then check out our range of interview articles here.

Not Utilising Your Own Network

A noteworthy difference between the western world and Middle East is the significance placed on relationships. Therefore, not utilising your network to your advantage would be a huge mistake. Particularly due to many executive positions not actually publicly advertised, getting in touch with your business contacts in person or online is compulsory. Ensuring you understand the strengths and weaknesses of hiring you as a candidate, but also as a national compared to an expat is the key to a successful job search. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. With many family businesses now opening their doors for executives to non-family members there exists a window of opportunity. If you would like help securing executive positions in the Middle East, get in touch with us today. Upload your CV below to speak with one of our senior relationship managers about your job search and career aspirations.

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About the author

Michael O'Keeffe

A graduate from Fairfield University in New Media with a particular focus on Television, Michael has worked in social media since graduation. His expertise will offer a variety insights into how you can penetrate into the saturated executive job market.

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